If you’re one of the 2bn-plus people who uses Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family, it might seem surprising if you want to delete your account. But concerns about privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal have meant that many people are looking to deactivate or even entirely delete their accounts.
So if you want to come off Facebook for good, here’s how to do it.
Download your data
First, you might want to download a copy of your data. This can include all your posts, your photos and videos, comments on other people’s posts, your Likes and reactions to other people’s content, details of your friends, details of the organisations you follow and interact with, your messages, any groups you belong to, your events, your profile information, any pages or groups that you manage, a list of the places you’ve checked in to and any apps you’ve allowed access to your Facebook account.
It will also include information about you, including what Facebook thinks are the ad topics most relevant to you, your search and location histories, logs of your calls and messages, information about your Facebook account, your login history and what devices you’ve used to access Facebook, and information about the networks you use.
It’s a lot of information, so be warned: it takes quite a while to download.
To download your information, in the top right-hand corner of the blue bar, click the down arrow, then click Settings > Your Facebook Information > Download Your Information and click View.
Then choose the information you want to download, and the format you want to download it in. You can also choose if you want your photos and videos in high quality and the date range, and then click Create File. Facebook warns that it might take several days to collate all your information, but last time I did it – with 11 years’ worth of data – it took a matter of hours rather than days.
Delete your data
Once you’ve downloaded your data, you can go ahead with deleting it.
Click the dropdown arrow at the right-hand end of the blue bar at the top of the page. Then in the left-hand column click Your Facebook information.
Then in the main panel click Delete your account and information, and then click Delete my account.
Even when you’ve done this, though, you haven’t quite escaped Facebook’s clutches. It takes them 14 days to start the process of deleting your account, and you’ll get emails asking you if you’re sure.
If you change your mind about deleting your account during that two weeks, you can stop it. To do so, log in to your account and click the Cancel deletion button.
If you don’t cancel the request, two weeks after you’ve made it, Facebook will start permanently deleting you. Be warned, though, that it’s a long process: Facebook says that it could take up to 90 days to delete everything – your photos, videos, status updates, likes, comments etc, but while that’s in progress, none of that is visible to anyone else.
Once the process is complete, your friends might still be able to see your ghost: Facebook says that some information you sent to friends – such as messages – could still be visible.
Take a break from Facebook rather than delete
If you’d rather put your account on hold than delete it for good, you can deactivate your account instead.
This means that nobody else will be able to see your profile, although some things such as messages you sent to your friends could still be visible.
Deactivating leaves messy traces of you on Facebook: admins of groups you’re in could still be able to see your name in the group as well as any posts or comments you made in the group, and your friends could still see your name in their list of friends. If their friends lists are visible to other people, then people you’re not friends with could also see your name in their list of friends.
Deactivating your profile also leaves your Messenger account still active, so even though your profile isn’t visible any more, you can still use Messenger to chat to your friends.
The upside of deactivating rather than deleting is that you can resurrect your account if you decide to come back rather than starting over from scratch.
If you want to deactivate, here’s how to do it.
In the top blue bar, go to the drop-down arrow in the right-hand corner, and click Settings. In the left-hand column, click General (at the top).
Then in the main panel, click Manage your account, and then click Deactivate your account.
You’ll need to enter your password to continue, and then follow the instructions to confirm.
Facebook doesn’t make any of this easy: even after deactivating your account, if you want to also take a break from Messenger, you’ll need to deactivate that separately.
To do that, open Messenger, and then click on your profile picture in the top right-hand corner, then click Privacy & Terms, and then Deactivate Messenger, and then click Deactivate.
Remember that if you deactivate both Facebook and Messenger but then later log in to Messenger while you’re deactivated, you will also reactivate your Facebook account.